Garmin Index Smart Scale Long Term Review

Overhead shot of the Garmin Index Smart Scale not in use.
It is so easy to use, it is stupid easy.

The Garmin Index Smart Scale is successful in that it allows the user to track their weight consistently over time.  This scale also works very well with users who use Garmin Connect and have other Garmin Devices.  It fits neatly as a tool within the ecosystem of your Garmin products.  However, it is lacking in one key area.  We will look at how this scale performed over the last 8 months of use and where it falls short.  I’ll cover the competitors and who I think would do well with the Garmin Index.

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Overview

The Garmin Index ($150 on Amazon) fits into the category of “Smart Scales.”  So, what makes a scale “Smart”?  Basically, you need a few things like Wifi connectivity, auto upload of weight and metrics, and then the metrics themselves like weight, BMI, body fat percentage, and anything else you can squeeze in.  All of these smart scales also do Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) which is a fancy term for sending a small current through your body to measure the impedance to estimate body fat.  I can tell you that there are a lot of variables that affect BIA.  This is going to be a shortfall for some of the more “Muscular” athletes out there.

BIA can be affected by Hydration status.  You can take a quick look at the Wiki on this subject to see what I am talking about.  You can get a significant overestimation in body fat when dehydrated.  Also, these scales are only using two electrodes, one on each foot, to measure body fat and make up.  With BIA, 4 electrodes is more accurate than two, and 8 electrodes is more accurate than 4.  There are limitations, and the only scale that does a 8 point BIA analysis is the Omron 511 but it has no Wifi connectivity which is a bummer.

I’ll talk more about how the Garmin Index falls short for me as a more muscular athlete in the BIA function.  BIA works well for my wife, but any of you out there carrying more muscle than the standard endurance athlete, are going to get inaccurate Body Fat Percentages.  I have my calipers and other tools like the Handheld Omron device to compare to (discussed further down).  Next, let’s look at the competitors for the Garmin Index and then we will dive into the basic functionality of the Garmin Smart Scale, what it does well, and where it falls short.

Competitors

Omron is more accurate since it has athlete mode.

I believe this market is going to get more competitive as the years go by.  Omron is on to something with the hand held units that are integrated within their smart scales.  I have a handheld Omron unit (HBF-306C for $49.99 on Amazon) that does BIA and measures Body fat pretty accurately.  The three main competitors to the Garmin Index are the Nokia Body Cardio (Withings was bought out by Nokia), the Polar Balance, and the Fitbit Aria.  All of these units advertise that they measure Body Fat using BIA ,and then auto upload that data through Wifi to a corresponding App.  I have no personal experience with these other scales at the moment, so I will just cover the basics.

Nokia Body Cardio

This is a picture of the Nokia Body Cardio from the Nokia website.
Nokia Body Cardio Stock Footage.

The Nokia Body Cardio ($179.95 on Amazon) is unique in the fact that it is the only smart scale to measure Pulse Waves from your heart (Read More About Pulse Waves).  Basically, it measures how quickly the blood moves (and pressure waves) from your heart to your feet.  If your blood is moving rapidly with high velocity pressure waves, you have high blood pressure or possibly stiff arteries.  This is the only scale that does this.  It also gives you Weight, Body Fat Percentage, Muscle Mass, Water Percentage, and Bone Density all loaded up automatically to the Nokia Health Mate App (which also links to MyFitnessPal).  Also, you are limited to 8 user profiles per scale.

Polar Balance

Polar Balance

The Polar Balance ($91.00 on Amazon) is one of the cheaper smart scales on the market.  That is because you only get weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), and Weight trends.  You can also load up to 10 users on the Polar Balance.  This scale also connects via Wifi and will auto upload to the Polar Flow App.  Again, you can connect the Polar Flow App to the MyFitnessPal app to integrate your weight data automatically.  I keep bringing this up, because MyFitnessPal is great weight loss tool for those of us who want to track our Macro-Nutrients and micromanage our diets.

FitBit Aria

Fitbit Aria Stock Footage

The Fitbit Aria ($99.oo on Amazon) is priced just above the Polar Balance.  For that 10 dollar increase you get much more.  The customer gets the auto wifi upload to the Fitbit app and the Aria tracks weight, BMI, Body Fat Percentage, and Lean Muscle Mass.  If you are only a FitBit user, then this scale is a home run for you.  The Fitbit App is one of the most attractive and functional apps on the market and the Aria will work very nicely with your other FitBit devices.  Lastly, you can connect your data to MyFitnesspal.

Competitor Summary

The way I see it, if you use the Garmin App, Polar App, Fitbit App, or Nokia App exclusively, then I would stick with the scale that fits your App.  I feel like the Polar Flow App is a bit behind the other Apps when it comes to ease of use and functionality.  There are some things they do well which you can see in my Polar A360 review, but there are other areas they fall short.  If you only care about getting your data onto MyFitnessPal, then the Garmin Index or Nokia Body Cardio are my top picks.  You can set up App accounts with those companies, link it to MyFitnessPal, then forget about the App entirely.  Any of those Apps will auto load the information into MyFitnessPal for you.

Functionality

I had no issues with the basic functionality of the Garmin Index Scale.  It functions exactly as advertised.  I used this scale in my house for 8 months straight on the original set of batteries.  I have had no crashes or any occurrences of glitches.  The scale loaded up to the Garmin Connect App every time, and that data populated MyFitnessPal every single time.  I couldn’t be happier with how it functioned with the exception of one area, Body Fat Analysis.  My results were not optimal, but my wife’s results were perfect. (missing images below are BMI calculation which was 20.8.  Sorry!).

Setup

Setup is pretty easy.  You take it out of the box and install the batteries.  After that, you open up the Garmin Connect App and sync the scale just like you would sync any other product.  The scale supports up to 16 users which I think is a bit overkill, but you can sync up to 16 people on the Garmin Index.  Each person has to use their own Garmin Connect App to sync up.  You cannot piggy back with the App and other users.

Day To Day Use

This is a picture of the Garmin Connect App. The Garmin Index will upload your child's weight if they are messing around with the scale and select your user profile.
You can see a 32 pound child logged in this day and it recorded to the Garmin Connect app.

The Garmin Index remembers your weight and uses that to estimate who is on the scale.  That works well in my house since I weigh 202lbs right now and my wife weighs 131lbs.  The scale is not going to mix us up when we step up on it.  You can tap your toe on the scale to change user profiles if it does get the wrong user.  The only issue I had was a 5 year old jumping on my scale and selecting my user profile.  When that happens, a weight measurement of 32lbs went to my Garmin Connect account and then synced to my MyFitnessPal account.  Everyone was so surprised when I dropped so much weight that day.

What It Does Well

This is a picture of a weight chart using myfitnesspal.com. It shows the trends over a 2 month period of constantly stepping on the scale even if we don't want to look at the numbers. The user went from 140 pounds to 131.7 pounds over two months using the Garmin Index and MyFitnessPal.
The ease of use gives you consistency in weight reporting.

Ease of use and consistent reliability is the Garmin Index Scales strong point.  It was so easy to set up and it executed flawlessly every day.  I also liked that I could step on the scale, stare at the wall (because I didn’t want to look at my weight that day) and then step off knowing it was going to work.  Having the ability the ability to auto upload your weight to the Garmin Connect App, and then having those numbers Auto Sync to MyFitnessPal is brilliant.  When I had to manually enter in my weight into these apps, I would only do it once I lost some weight.  I never updated my data every day.  This scale allows you to see trends over time.  The only thing you have to do is step up on it at the same time every day to build in the consistency.

Where It Falls Short

Yes, there is one big shortfall for me and this scale, the BIA and Body Fat Estimation.  I am a muscular athlete.  My current stats are 202lbs at 11.5% (estimate) Body Fat Percentage.  How did I come up with these numbers? I’m going to talk about that for a quick minute.  I enjoy weight training in the off, and sometimes on season, in between running and cycling.  Weight training is a necessity as we get older and we need to keep strong bones and well balanced bodies.  I used three methods to measure body fat; Calipers, the hand held Omron Body Logic Pro, and the Garmin Index Scale.  Below are my results:

Garmin Index: 202lbs, Body Fat Estimate 24.5%

Omron Body Logic Pro: 202lbs, Body Fat Estimate 12.5%

Calipers: 3 site method Body Fat 11.12% and 7 site method 9.94%

In my experience, the 3 site and 7 site Jackson/Pollock skin fold test under estimates body fat percentage (here is the study that proves it).  That is the method I’ve been using for at least 10 years and I know under reports Body Fat by up to 2 percent.  The Omron seems surprisingly accurate as a hand held BIA.  The Garmin Index doesn’t work for me at all.  I think that’s because I am carrying around roughly 177lbs of lean muscle mass.  I don’t think the index or any of these smart scales do well with muscular athletes.  This means, they need an athlete mode to compensate and increase accuracy.  However, the 22% body fat estimate for my wife is pretty is spot on.  She falls right in the “Fit” category for women and the other measurements line up precisely for her.  What do I think is causing these problems?  Basically, lean muscle mass throwing off the BIA for the Garmin Index.

Who Should Buy This?

Anyone who is already using Garmin products should buy this scale.  It does not bother me that the body fat percentage is off.  I use the Omron primarily and I know that is pretty accurate and can give me a Body Fat reading within a few seconds.  I would still buy this scale because of the utility of auto uploading my weight.  The ability for the user to auto upload body weight every single morning is huge when it comes to managing your weight.  Yes, I would pay $150 just for that functionality.  Yes, I was skeptical when I bought a $150 scale.  However, I can be a bit lazy at time tracking metrics.  The Garmin Index works when I need it to work and the only thing I have to do is just step up on it.  I don’t even need to look at it if I ate too much ice cream the night before.  It is a solid buy for me.   Support the site and Purchase the Garmin Index from Amazon. 

Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

Aaron served in the military for 20 years. Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the military after 20 years of service to take care of our three small children in 2013 as a Stay At Home Dad.

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3 thoughts on “Garmin Index Smart Scale Long Term Review

    • August 9, 2017 at 12:25 am
      Permalink

      DUDE! I had no idea they had an athlete mode. I need to check that out. Now I feel bad that I missed that. Yes, for the wifi I’m running an Apple Airport Extreme on both 2.4 and 5ghz. It works really well for me. I would check your range on your wifi router. If your phone is acting a bit slow in the location of your Index Scale, then that is probably the issue.

      Reply
    • August 11, 2017 at 12:55 pm
      Permalink

      Well, I gave that a try and under user settings I don’t have an activity class to change. So, it looks like this option may have been deleted from the Index Smart Scale at some point.

      Reply

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